* Kiev has paid down $1.7 bln of $3.3 bln gas debt to Russia
* Past disputes disrupted gas deliveries to Europe via
* Ukraine says gas flows to Europe on time, volumes normal
By Katya Golubkova
MOSCOW, Feb 26 Ukraine has slashed gas imports
from Russia this month because of stretched state finances and
mild weather, acting energy minister Eduard Stavytsky was quoted
as saying by Russia's Itar-Tass news agency on Wednesday.
The overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Russia President Viktor
Yanukovich at the weekend sparked concerns that Russian state
gas exporter Gazprom might exert pressure on a country
whose new leaders look set to pursue a pro-EU course.
Ukraine's state energy company Naftogaz had reduced its
imports of gas from Gazprom to 28 million cubic metres (mcm) per
day as of Feb. 24 from 147 mcm at the beginning of the month,
two Russian industry sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
"In this situation when we have difficulties in collecting
money ... and a significant gas debt to Russia, we decided to
buy less fuel," Stavytsky was quoted as saying. He also noted
that the weather had been mild, which would lower demand for
A Gazprom spokesman declined to comment.
Analysts said the fall likely would be temporary.
"We believe that the drop in gas delivery is temporary, as
Ukraine is unlikely to find European gas at a lower price than
Gazprom's," Otkritie analyst Sergey Beiden said in a note.
"Nevertheless, we think that the market is concerned about
whether the debt to Gazprom will be paid and also about how the
current events in Ukraine could influence gas transit to Europe
and Ukrainian consumption."
Disputes over gas prices between Russia and Ukraine in the
winters of 2006 and 2009 led to stoppages in exports to Europe,
which gets around a third of its gas from Russia.
In a statement on Wednesday, Ukrainian state-owned gas
transport company Ukrtransgaz said gas transits to Europe were
at full volumes and on time, adding that from Jan. 1 to Feb. 24
western Europe had imported 12.2 billion cubic metres of gas via
Apart from Ukraine, Russian gas flows to Europe travel via
Belarus and two subsea pipelines - under the Black Sea and the
Baltic Sea. Gazprom plans to build another subsea pipeline - the
South Stream - to bypass Ukraine by 2016.
According to the Russian Energy Ministry, Gazprom shipped
14.3 billion cubic metres of gas to western Europe, including
Turkey, in January. It has yet to provide data for February.
On Tuesday, Stavytsky said Kiev as of Feb. 24 had paid off
$1.68 billion of its $3.3 billion gas debt to Russia which was
amassed over 2013 and 2014.
In December, Russia agreed to reduce gas prices for Kiev by
about a third, to $268.50 per 1,000 cubic metres from around
$400 which Ukraine had paid since 2009. The deal allows for the
price to be revised quarterly.
Ukraine consumes about 55 billion cubic metres of gas each
year, and imports more than half of that from Russia. Gazprom
exported 161.5 billion cubic metres of gas to Europe last year.